We know you’ll have a lot of questions about visiting the Sinai and hiking the Sinai Trail! Below is what we get asked the most, so see if your query is answered here. If not, please contact us.
Is it safe to visit the Sinai?
We get asked this one a lot. It’s hard to give a definitive answer about the Sinai, mainland Egypt, or indeed many parts of the world. Things can change quickly. However, we can say a few things with certainty. There has never been an attack on tourists in the interior Bedouin parts of South Sinai, where the Sinai Trail is. The area has been peaceful in recent times, despite unrest in other parts of Egypt. The well-publicized unrest in the Sinai has occurred largely in a small pocket in the far north east of the peninsula, on the border with Gaza. We always urge caution and suggest you consult a balanced range of sources, including the advice of your government, in considering whether to visit the Sinai or not.
OK, so what are the best sources?
Local sources in the Sinai, including the Sinai Trail Team, plus any of its partners, are worth sounding out. Unlike many other sources, they are on the ground with an excellent understanding of the region, its culture, and access to information, including information about safety and security, that many others won’t have. You shouldn’t rely on their advice alone, but it is one way to build up a better, more complete understanding of the region. You should monitor news about the Sinai and check advice from your government travel advisory service before travel too.
Where can I get travel insurance for the Sinai?
Hikers from the UK can join the British Mountaineering Council or World Nomads whose insurance currently covers travel in South Sinai. The Austrian Alpine Club has a travel insurance policy that will cover you for South Sinai. People can join the club from anywhere in the world and then purchase its travel insurance policy. When buying insurance, read the small print and make sure it covers you for hiking to a height of 3000m if you’ll be visiting the highlands of St Katherine. Some policies set an altitude limit. Camel riding, jeep travel and rock scrambling cover are advisable, plus an air evacuation component.
What visa do I need for the Sinai Trail?
To hike the whole Sinai Trail you need a full Egyptian visa. For more info check our page Visas & Red Tape.
How difficult is the Sinai Trail? Is it all a hike?
The Sinai Trail involves walking many km per day through the desert and on a typical day we will cover between 10 and 25km depending on the trip you are joining. More information on the trip you are booking will be send on a separate booklet. This can be tough enough as a one-off; doing it daily, for many consecutive days, is significantly harder. Trails are rugged and sometimes you will walk on sand, which takes a lot of energy. Good cardiovascular fitness is important, plus stamina, endurance and plenty of mental resilience. It is important to know your fitness level prior to this hike, doing a few test hikes in the Sinai or in areas with similar landscapes. When you have a realistic idea of what your body is capable of you can develop a training program to give the kind of targeted help you need.
How fit do I need to be to hike the trail?
Even if you’re fit, extra training isn’t a bad thing. Cardiovascular fitness is important: this can be built up through running, cycling and other exercise that gets you out of breath. Stamina and endurance can be improved by gradually increasing the distances you cover in a typical training session over weeks and months. We recommend training in an environment that mirrors the Sinai: Wadi Degla is the best option near Cairo for the Egypt based hikers. Hike in the shoes and clothes you’ll wear, on the hike, carrying a small backpack like you will in the Sinai. Train yourself for the conditions you expect on the hike itself
How long does hiking the whole trail take?
The Sinai Trail is a triangular ‘circuit’ that totals 550km in length and which takes most people around 52 days to walk, if all major mountain peaks on the way are climbed. The whole trail can be divided in section hikes. You can walk the whole Sinai Trail, doing the entire ‘triangle’: most people who do this start at Ras Shetan and walk it clockwise, heading south west to Jebel Sabbah, then north west to Ras Mabrook, then east back to Ras Shetan. However, others prefer to walk one side of the ‘triangle’ at a time. Other people prefer to do it in even shorter sections, sometimes just 1-2 days at a time, completing the trail over several years. For more info please contact us.
Which part of the trail is the best?
It depends what you like. If you’re a mountain person, head to the highlands of St Katherine or the coastal mountains near Ras Shetan. For classic desert scenery with sandy plains, sandstone peaks and canyons, head to Ein Hudera or Serabit el Khadem. Wherever you go on the Sinai Trail you will find spectacular landscapes and history.
Is there potentially hazardous in the Sinai?
Like any hiking trail in the world, the Sinai Trail has its hazards. This is a route that crosses rugged and sometimes difficult terrain, often in remote areas with no specialist mountain rescue unit. Help will be faraway: sometimes, it can take as long as two days to bring help to the scene of an emergency. The hike will be operated by a team of highly experienced Bedouin guides who will do their best to create a safe, controlled environment. However, they can never take the element of risk out of the trail entirely and all participants must understand the inherent risks involved in a hike of this kind – including the risk of injury and even death – and accept these before starting. Hikers are always expected to act responsibly and, in joining, agree to act in accordance with instructions given by guides. It is important as a hiker to look out for yourself and all other hikers too. If you are concerned about anybody’s welfare, raise it with the guiding team at the earliest possible opportunity.
DEHYDRATION: Dehydration happens when your body loses more water than it takes in. It’s the most common cause of hospitalization for hikers in the Sinai – especially in the hotter months of the year – and a potential hazard everybody must be aware of. This is especially the case for hikers arriving in Egypt from outside, who are not fully acclimated to the temperature. Most of our body’s water is lost by sweating, but up to four litres a day can be lost just by breathing too. If you are dehydrated, you’ll pass urine less often, and it will be darker in color. These are early warning signs, along with thirst and a mild headache, so remain vigilant. If dehydration persists and nothing is done, it can give rise to more serious heat illnesses like heat exhaustion and heat stroke: a life-threatening emergency. The good news is that dehydration is 100% preventable: you simply need to drink enough water throughout!
To prevent dehydration please follow these steps:
– Have a regular drinking regime: the mistake is to just drink when you’re thirsty. Thirst is an early sign dehydration is already setting in. Please carry enough water – in accordance with the advice given by guides for each section of the hike – and drink regularly. Generally, it’s better to drink too much than too little.
– Don’t over-exert yourself: please stick to the hiking route, rather than charging off and clambering up boulders or doing anything else too energetic. If you are getting tired, take a break and speak to your leader. There will be key points on the hike where you can finish early or take an alternative route if needed.
– Look out for each other: The Sinai Trail hike will be done in a supportive environment, as a team. Please look out for yourself and everybody around you, encouraging them to drink regularly and looking for warning signs they might be getting dehydrated – e.g. hot, tired looking, reduced talkatively, irritability etc.
– Acclimatize to the heat. If you are travelling to the Sinai from a colder country or if you already live in Egypt, but don’t exercise much in the heat please note that your body might not be fully acclimatized to the conditions we encounter on the hike. Heat acclimation is the process by which your body becomes acclimatized to a hot environment, with a raft of physical changes setting in. Full acclimation takes about two weeks and you should exercise for a minimum of 60 to 90 minutes in the heat every day to trigger it. If this isn’t possible, please do what you can in the period before your hike. On the hike itself, take everything at a comfortable pace and remember to drink as regularly as possible, staying hydrated.
SUNBURN: Sunburn is a risk all year in the Sinai, especially for children and people with fairer skin. Please cover exposed skin and apply high factor sun cream regularly throughout the day. Also bring lip salve and UV-filtering sun glasses.
BLISTERS: Blisters can range from a minor annoyance to the kind of problem that will stop your hike altogether. It is essential to take good care of your feet and do all you can to avoid blisters in the first place. Break in your footwear by wearing it daily at least two weeks before the hike. Whilst on trail, remove your footwear at regular intervals, including at lunchtime and in the evening, letting it dry out: blisters develop commonly in hot, wet footwear. Make a routine foot inspection when airing your feet, checking for any sore, burning, irritable or otherwise suspicious-looking-or-feeling ‘hotspots’. These could develop into blisters, so if you catch them apply plasters as a preventive measure. Wearing specialist blister socks or taping the feet with zinc oxide tape or normal medical tape can help prevent blisters too.
STOMACH UPSETS: Stomach upsets are common, especially in those new to the region. Usually, these are nothing serious and clear up within a day or two. Nevertheless, they can be debilitating whilst they last, especially mid-way through a hike, when the group has a schedule and needs to make progress along the trail. Diarrhea is a common affliction with a stomach upset and it can usually be treated with an anti-diarrhea like Imodium. Re-hydration salts will help keep your body hydrated too, which is important during diarrhea, because your body will lose a lot of water.
WILDLIFE: There are dangerous animals in the Sinai, although encounters are rare. Snakes and scorpions are present all year but are most active in hotter times, at night. Always take care picking up rocks or putting your hands where you can’t see them and shake down any bags if they’ve been on the floor. Never walk barefoot either; this is risky. Don’t leave tents open or put sleeping bags down on the floor before you’re ready to sleep: this will ensure nothing crawls in. Don’t pick or eat any plants as the Sinai has poisonous specimens, including some that leave a toxic residue on your hands. Mosquitoes can be an annoyance, especially near water. A good DEET-based repellent will help keep them away and get that all-important good night’s sleep.
WEATHER: Potentially hazardous weather can hit the Sinai. The biggest danger is rain and getting wet and cold, especially higher up in the mountains. People have died in the Sinai from exposure before. Please ensure you always have a waterproof layer with you and take care to stay dry. It is recommended you bring tents to sleep in – decent shelter in the rain – and we also suggest you pack all your equipment in specialist dry bags in your daypack/ camel bag. If you can’t find dry bags, tough, thick black rubbish bags are the best substitute. This will help ensure important gear – e.g. your sleeping bag – stays dry in the event of a rainstorm on the trail. Rain can also cause flash floods, which sweep down wadis with terrifying force. Guides will check the long-term weather forecasts before the hike begins and wherever a phone signal allows. They will also use personal observations, monitoring the weather throughout the hike and modifying the programme where necessary. Please always listen to their advice.
ALTITUDE: Altitude-related conditions like acute mountain sickness (AMS) are very rarely an issue in the Sinai. AMS typically occurs at altitudes over 2500m: the only time you will be at this altitude is on Jebel Katherina, where the group will sleep at the end of the Sinai Trail. Early warning signs of AMS are a headache, dizziness, light headedness or fatigue: if you notice anything out of the ordinary in yourself or others this night, please report it to one of the guides. We will sleep close together in case of any issues. Please note that under no circumstances should you join the Sinai Trail hike earlier than 48 hours before finishing a dive. Every part of the Sinai Trail is high enough to induce Decompression Sickness (DMS). Diving related deaths are not unknown for divers who have ventured onto the hiking trails of the Sinai.
Can I hike without a Bedouin guide?
Most Bedouin tribes require hikers to take guides on the Sinai Trail. Guiding is one of the few legitimate ways Bedouin tribes can make a living in a desert landscape like the Sinai – especially when they are sidelined from beach tourism along the coast – and it is a profession they have been practicing for many centuries.
Is there phone reception on the Sinai Trail? Yes, but only at a few points. Signals are weak, but they should be enough to message friends and family at least once on the trip. However, there are no guarantees and it can also cut out.
Is there electricity on the hike? No, this is a wilderness route with no villages/ towns. If you want to charge any electronic devices, bring a power supply or solar charger.
What will we be drinking? We will drink mineral water most of the time. However, there may be times when we need to drink from desert drinking water too, so we recommend you bring personal water purification systems, whether chlorine or chlorine dioxide tablets, a chemical water filter, or a UV Steripen. Some hikers like to bring flavoured powders or isotonic tablets to dissolve in water and improve taste.
Who will guide the hike? The hike will be guided by the same Bedouin guides who developed the Sinai Trail. They know this trail and its landscapes better than anybody and have many years of experience leading groups through the desert. The support team will consist of apprentice guides, learning under the tutelage of older ones. This is a way for them to develop the skills needed to keep the guiding profession of the Sinai alive, and to ensure the Sinai Trail remains active into the future.
What foods are good for hiking? Dates, raisins, nuts, dried figs or apricots are all good, healthy options, containing plenty of energy. Halawa is good too; better than chocolate, as it won’t melt on a warm day. Snacks are your choice, so bring what you like: rest assured you’ll fully deserve a few treats on this trip!
Which food we will be eating? Food is carried by camels, with makeshift kitchens set up in the desert. The Bedouin are excellent cooks who can produce superb meals but food in the desert will always be more basic than it would be in the towns. In the morning, expect something like foul, cheese, biscuits, jam and salad, all with Bedouin bread, baked fresh, in the embers of a fire. At lunch, cheese, tuna, tahina and salad are the usual favorites, all eaten with fresh bread. Most of the time when hiking we will carry our lunch with us, splitting it between the group. Dinner will always be a more substantial hot meal, usually based on pasta, rice or lentils, often with vegetables and perhaps with canned meat and fish. If you are a vegetarian, vegan or have any special dietary needs please let us know.
What if I can’t do the whole trail? If necessary there are several points where it is possible to stop, leave the trail and return to the nearest town. There are other points where the group will be so deep in the wilderness there is no option but to carry on to the nearest evacuation point. If for whatever reason you feel unwell or that you can’t continue, please tell your guide as early as possible. This will help them arrange for you to get off the trail as soon as possible and keep you safe.
I want to help the Sinai Trail project – how can I do it? First, help us spread the word. If the Sinai Trail is to grow and reach its full potential to help communities, hikers must visit the Sinai and walk it. Please tell your friends about it and share as much as you can from your hike along the trail on Facebook, Instagram and other social media. Currently, we are using the hashtag #SINAITRAIL. If you have suggestions for other hashtags or ideas about how to raise the profile of the Sinai Trail, please let us know! Consider writing an article for a local media outlet or blogging or vlogging about your hike; if you work in tourism or with clubs or youth groups, please consider adding the Sinai Trail to the selection of trips you offer. There are many activities that can be done on the Sinai Trail. You could also consider doing this hike to raise sponsorship for a cause you care about. You can also buy some of the products sold by the Sinai Trail: these are produced by local people for fair wages and the profits go to supporting the Sinai Trail Bedouin Cooperative.
Can I use this hike to raise money for a good cause? Yes, you can. If you’d like to raise sponsorship for a good, charitable cause among friends, families and other people, and you think they would be willing to sponsor you, please tell us. We can send you a branded sponsorship form to collect donations.
What about tips? You do not have an obligation to tip, but it is part of the local culture in the Sinai, so if you want to, and feel it is deserved, we encourage you to do so. We usually recommend between 5 and 10% of the costs of the trip. Bedouin guides work hard on the Sinai Trail and any tips you offer will be appreciated.